Almost three years after the previous Checkers restaurant disappeared from the Statesboro scene, the new one is opening to paying drive-thru customers for the first time Tuesday at 10 a.m.
It will henceforth be open 10 a.m.- 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until midnight Sundays.
This season of social distancing turns out to be a relatively opportune time to open a restaurant that is mostly drive-thru anyway, StarrChex Georgia LCC operating partner Danny Linderman acknowledged Friday.
“Right now is a good time to be in the drive-thru business,” he said.
But the local market isn’t all that it could be, added StarrChex managing member Valerie Babb.
“Even though we are excited about the opening, we really wish that the students were at Georgia Southern also,” she said. “We’re definitely going to miss them, but we hope to have some kind of big event when they come back in the fall.”
The new Checkers drive-thru, on Northside Drive East across Buckhead Drive from the KFC, also has a walk-up service window and several outdoor picnic tables. But those features will remain closed for the time being.
“It will be drive-thru only,” Linderman said. “Our walk-up business is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19. Our main reason is to have a way to manage that and keep everybody six feet apart. Otherwise, with our opening, we’d certainly have long lines at that walk-up. So for safety reasons for both sides, we need to keep that closed until further notice.”
For crew members who handle food, frequently changed gloves were already a requirement, and cashiers will now be wearing gloves as well. Checkers does not currently have masks available for all crew members, although that could change, he said.
“We definitely are taking all of the precautions necessary that the CDC and corporate are asking us to,” Linderman said.
The owners also plan to establish delivery options, but those won’t be available until May, Babb said.
The new Checkers held a special pre-opening event during lunchtime Monday with free food for law enforcement personnel and other first-responders such as those with the Emergency Medical Service and fire departments.
Babb, her husband Stan Babb, and Linderman are owners of StarrChex Georgia, which operates the Checkers franchise in Statesboro as well as locations in Savannah, Hinesville and Waycross.
Linderman became a partner in the business after first working for Valerie Babb’s father, Bernard Dixon, and a previous partner, Joe Dyer, from the time they opened Statesboro’s first Checkers in the 1990s.
That previous drive-thru restaurant, in front of the Southern Square shopping center, also on Northside Drive East, served customers for 22 years before the property owner there did not renew the lease in 2017. The building that houses Aspen Dental and the new AT&T store was then built on the former Checker’s site.
The new, modular Checkers building arrived in four sections on three trucks in December. It measures 970 square feet. Compared to the previous 575-square-foot structure, this one has 70% more room for employees to prepare the burgers, hotdogs, wings and sandwiches and pour the soft drinks and Slushies.
Unlike the old unit, which had dual drive-thru lanes with separate windows, the new one has two lanes merging to a single service window. The Checkers-Rally’s corporate website lists this as a Model 4.0 building.
It was installed and the site completed by under general contractor Tippins-Polk Construction.
When the year began, the StarrChex owners expressed hope for a February opening, but rain caused delays, especially in paving the parking and drive-thru area.
The restaurant employs a few more than 30 people total to cover all shifts.
Even after the restaurant’s three-year absence from the community, 10 employees of the previous Statesboro Checkers have returned to work at the new one, Babb said. A few worked in the intervening years at the locations in Savannah.